Who is Obligated and For How Long
A court may order one of the parents, to pay child support for the child until the child attains 18 years of age or graduates from high school. The obligation to pay child support may terminate before the child is 18 years of age or graduates from high school if the child does not meet school attendance requirements set forth in the Texas Family Code or the child marries, enlists in the armed forces, or is emancipated by court order. Only the parents of the child (including adoptive parents) may be ordered to pay child support, unless there is an enforceable agreement by a non-parent to pay child support. The obligation to pay child support may extend beyond the child’s 18th birthday if the child is enrolled full time in a program leading to a high school diploma. If the child is disabled, the obligation to pay child support may extend for an indefinite period past the child’s 18th birthday. If a person agrees to a court order, or enters into a binding agreement such as a mediated settlement agreement or partition agreement, that obligates the person to pay child support past the child’s graduation from high school, or to pay college tuition or costs, the obligation is binding and enforceable.
Child Support Guidelines
The Texas Family Code contains guidelines for the payment of child support, expressed as a percentage of the person’s “net resources”. In general, the person obligated to pay child support (the “obligor”) is required to pay 20% for 1 child and an additional 5% for each additional child, i.e., 25% for two children, 30% for three children, etc. The obligor’s “net resources” usually is the person’s gross income minus income taxes, Social Security, and health insurance premiums for the child(ren). However, net resources is defined very broadly and includes most forms of compensation, benefits, or other money received. If the obligor owns assets that do not produce income, the court may assign an amount of deemed income to those assets based on what the assets could earn if converted to income-producing assets. If the court finds that the obligor is intentionally unemployed, or under-employed (the actual income is less than what the obligor could earn), the court will apply the guidelines to the earning potential of the obligor as determined by the court.
Retroactive Child Support
A court may order the obligor to pay child support retroactive to the date that the parents separated or the child otherwise was not living with the obligor. If the obligor has contributed to the support of the child, in most cases the obligor will receive credit for that support against the amount of retroactive child support. The retroactive child support is in addition to the current child support. Generally, retroactive child support is determined as a lump sum amount and is ordered to be paid in monthly amounts in addition to the amount of current child support payments. In determining retroactive child support, the court will apply the child support guidelines to the obligors net resources during the relevant time period.